Researchers looking for information on the properties of methane at high temperatures or the isotopic composition of an element know they can rely on standard reference data from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). But what they really need is an app (or apps) to make the data more accessible.
As a step in that direction, NIST is launching its first app challenge. Prizes totaling $45,000 can go to developers who create applications that offer new ways to access and use data from one or more of six eligible scientific data collections maintained by NIST.
NIST maintains some of the world’s most accurate and comprehensive datasets of physical, material, chemical and biological data covering a broad range of substances and properties. These datasets are invaluable research tools for physicists, biochemical engineers, environmental researchers, students and many others. The app challenge is meant to boost awareness of these resources and modernize their use.
To support the challenge, NIST has made six of its datasets available in machine-readable format. The contest is open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18.
Challenge participants must make the app available for testing at no cost to NIST, and it must be accompanied by a brief text submission, at least one screenshot of the app, and a brief (less than five minute) video describing the functionality of the app. Entries are due by September 28, 2015.
NIST experts will vet technical aspects of the apps and a group of judges will evaluate submissions to identify the best. The criteria for judging will be the app’s potential impact, its creativity and innovation, how well it is implemented, and the integration of one or more SRD or other data into the app.
The six eligible NIST Standard Reference Datasets to be used in the challenge are:
- CODATA Fundamental Physical Constants (NIST SRD 121) — provides the most accurate internationally recommended values of the fundamental physical constants that are essential to basic theories of physics and our quantitative understanding of the physical universe. [Machine-readable form]
- Ground Levels and Ionization Energies for the Neutral Atoms (NIST SRD 111) — primarily used by chemists and astronomers to calculate thermodynamic properties of atoms in chemical reactions and other kinetic processes, and by atomic physicists to benchmark experimental data for advanced atomic theories. [Machine-readable form]
- Atomic Weights and Isotopic Compositions (NIST SRD 144) — provides atomic weights for elements 1 through 118 and is used by scientists in detecting radioactive isotopes, dating of paintings and sculptures, determining the origins of meteor samples and more. [Machine-readable form]
- NIST Computational Chemistry Comparison and Benchmark Database (CCCBDB, NIST SRD 101) — provides thermochemical data for a selected set of more than 1,000 gas-phase atoms and molecules. It is used by chemists to compare experimental results with computational ideal-gas properties. [Machine-readable form]
- NIST-JANAF Thermochemical Tables (NIST SRD 13) — originally used by the aerospace industry to understand rocket propellant combustion, these thermochemical data for a range of chemical substances are used world-wide in a range of chemistry, environmental and materials applications. Industry scientists use these tables to predict thermodynamic information about chemical substances, including equilibrium mixtures and heat release. [Machine-readable form]
- NIST ITS-90 Thermocouple Database (NIST SRD 60) — provides temperature calibration data for converting a measured voltage to temperature, and is the basis for calibration of thermometers, instrument controllers and other devices that rely on temperature for process control. These types of devices are found in virtually every technology including kitchen ovens, hot water heaters, residential and commercial furnaces, power plants and more. [Machine-readable form]
The Reference Data Challenge follows NIST’s first participation in the National Day of Civic Hacking, held June 6, 2015, in which NIST invited coders from across the U.S. to play with a subset of its Standard Reference Data.
The challenge also complements NIST’s ongoing efforts to ensure its data and research results are publicly accessible. On July 8, 2015, NIST released a new data access plan and is asking the public for feedback to help guide its policies and procedures.